|Manual on the Rights and Duties of Medical Personnel in Armed Conflicts (ICRC, 1982, 77 p.)|
|CHAPTER 2. DUTIES OF MEDICAL PERSONNEL|
Art. 8, P. I
"Medical units" means establishments and other units, whether military or civilian, organized for medical purposes, namely the search for, collection, transportation, diagnosis or treatment - including first-aid treatment - of the wounded, sick and shipwrecked, or for the prevention of disease. The term includes, for example, hospitals and other similar units, blood transfusion centres, preventive medicine centres and institutes, medical depots and the medical and pharmaceutical stores of such units. Medical units may be fixed or mobile, permanent or temporary.
Such units are "permanent" when they are assigned exclusively to medical purposes for an indeterminate period. They are "temporary" when they are devoted exclusively to medical purposes for limited periods during the whole of such periods.
6.2. Respect and protection.
Art. 19, 20, 21, 22, G I;
Art. 23, G II;
Art. 18 and 19, G IV;
Art. 11, P. II;
Art. 12, 13, P. I
Medical units shall at all times be respected and protected. This means that not only is it prohibited to attack or damage them, but that they shall be permitted to accomplish their specific duties, in particular by measures enabling them to obtain medical supplies and by defending them from any acts of brigandage.
On the other hand, a medical unit must not be defended against the enemy in the event of penetration by the latter into the territory where the unit is located. Such defence would constitute a hostile act which would cause the unit to forfeit its right to protection. For the enemy in this situation, the obligation to "respect" the unit does not mean that it must not be occupied, but that the wounded and sick, as well as the personnel and the medical equipment, must be treated with every consideration. In order to enjoy this right to respect and protection, the medical units must also fulfil two conditions:
- apart from the units administered by the ICRC, they should be attached to the medical services of the armed forces or, for civilian units, be recognized and authorized by the competent authority of the Party to the conflict under which they are operating or be placed under the responsibility of these authorities (where units have been provided by a State not a Party to the conflict or by a voluntary agency of such a State). In every case, the authorities of a Party to the conflict having jurisdiction over a medical unit entitled to protection - and consequently to use of the distinctive emblem - are therefore responsible for it and must make sure that the unit is properly used in conformity with its purpose, that is, principally, that it fulfils the second condition mentioned below;
- they must not be used to commit acts harmful to the enemy. This would be the case, for example, if the unit served as an observation post, housed uninjured soldiers or contained an ammunition store. It would also be the case, for a mobile unit, if it was deliberately located in such a way as to hamper the enemy's advance. On the other hand, it is not considered a harmful act if the medical personnel carry small arms for their own defence and that of the wounded and sick (against brigandage, not against enemy attack - see above; 1.4.); if the unit is guarded by a picket or by sentries or under escort; if small arms and ammunition taken from the wounded and sick and not yet handed to the proper service are found in the units; if combatants in good health are in the unit temporarily for medical reasons (e.g., vaccination). If a medical unit were used to commit an act harmful to the enemy, the latter should, if at all possible - which would not be the case, for example, if under heavy fire from the unit in question - give warning to the unit before attacking it. In all cases, there should be at least an attempt to provide for the safety of the wounded and sick.
Art. 42, 43, G I;
Art. 43, G II;
Art. 18, G IV;
Art. 12, P II;
Art. 18, Annex I, P. I
To ensure the protection of medical units, each Party to the conflict shall do its best to adopt and apply methods and procedures permitting them to be easily identified. All necessary measures shall be taken to make clearly visible to enemy land, air and naval forces the distinctive emblems, to avoid any confusion in the event of attacks, particularly from the air. The medical units should be marked:
- with the distinctive emblem of the red cross or the red crescent;
- and, where possible, by distinctive signals (light, radio or electronic), the use of which is optional, and which are described in Annex I of Protocol I.
It should be emphasized once again that the main concern should be to make the emblem visible: it should be as large as circumstances warrant and if possible applied to flat surfaces visible from all directions. In addition, wherever possible it should be lighted when visibility is poor, and made from material enabling it to be identified by infra-red light.
Moreover, medical units attached to the civil defence service may likewise display, in addition to the distinctive emblem of the red cross or red crescent, the distinctive sign of civil defence (a blue triangle on an orange ground). The medical units may also display the national flag of the Party to the conflict under which they are operating. This last-mentioned entitlement holds good at all times for medical units loaned by a State not a Party to the conflict but no longer applies for medical units of a Party to the conflict if they fall into enemy hands.
6.4. Obligations of medical personnel.
In the general principles, the stress has been placed on the obligation of medical personnel to be neutral. As part of a medical unit, these personnel, as well as fulfilling their obligations towards the wounded and sick, shall make sure that nothing and nobody within the unit may be considered as an act harmful to the enemy and thus endanger the protection of the unit.